Gluten-Free doesn’t have to mean “Flavor Free”

By: Lauren Kremer, Dietetic Intern

More than ever, clients are requesting gluten-free menu items. Between Celiac Disease, a rare autoimmune disease affecting the small intestines, gluten-sensitivity and other gastrointestinal issues, many people are opting not to include gluten in their diets.  With this in mind, I created a nutrition education workshop about gluten for our clients at the Senior Center at Saint Peter’s and The Center@ Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. We reviewed the main sources of gluten: wheat, barley and rye. Oats, which are gluten-free, are often contaminated with gluten at factories where they are processed. Gluten can be found in many foods, some of them surprising, including foods such as salad dressing and other condiments, pies, imitation seafood and snack foods such as potato chips.

If your clients are adhering to a gluten-free diet, then what exactly can they eat? Gluten-free products will typically have “Gluten-Free” written on the label.  In addition, the following foods are gluten-free:

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  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Meat and Fish
  • Beans, Peas and Legumes
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Butter
  • Corn
  • Rice
  • Potato
  • Millet
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Sorghum
  • Flax
  • Tapioca
  • Spices
  • Oils

We taste tested a gluten-free product, Banza, a pasta made from chickpea flour that is used in the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House kitchen. Banza is not only gluten-free but is also high in protein and fiber, making it a very healthy alternative to pasta, especially pasta made from refined flour. Our clients compared the taste of Banza to whole wheat pasta, both with vegetable tomato sauce, and unanimously agreed that Banza tasted delicious. I recommend undercooking Banza so that it doesn’t turn out mushy – but even for large groups, it can be a great pasta alternative. Try exploring other pastas including those made with quinoa, lentil or brown rice to see which your clients like best. Happy gluten-free cooking!